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Blog, Wines4 May 2018

Grape & Braai the South African Way!

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Blog, Wines4 May 2018

Grape & Braai the South African Way!

Earlier this year, our Head of Wine Louisa Fitzpatrick embarked on a trip to South Africa to visit Riebeek Cellars, a regional winery which produces our own-label South African ranges. Louisa’s trip report gives an insight into challenges of the area along with the wine-making successes…

We visited in the third week of January and the all-consuming conversation topic was the drought situation. As you entered Cape Town airport the wall sized poster that greeted you was about saving water during your stay. They were going to be the first westernised city in history to face a water allocation, and with just 6 weeks to go until the taps were stopped mid-March it was all anyone was talking about. The reservoirs were at 21% fill level and you couldn’t use the last sludgy 10%, leaving a very small amount left to satisfy the population. It was too-little-too-late to set up desalination plants in time.

Riebeek

Riebeek Kasteel is about an hour out of Cape Town, and part of the Swartland wine region. It was one of the first towns in South Africa, founded in 1661 in honour of the administrator of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck.  It is a small town with approx. 5000 inhabitants. Afrikaans is the main language although most people spoke some English.

Above: the famous Short Street in Riebeek Kasteel which is celebrated in a wine range of the same name, using classic Rhône grape varieties.

Our host for the week, along with Richard Addison, was Kara van Zyl, Export Manager for Riebeek Cellars. The wine business was much smaller and a lot more personal than I was expecting. André Engelbrecht is the CEO heading up the company which employs around 20 people. They welcomed us openly. Riebeek Cellars don’t own any vineyards per se but have long standing contracts with growers in the area. Throughout the week we bumped into many of the growers who all knew Richard well. They would pass us boxes of table grapes for our journey and spontaneously join us for drinks and Braiis (BBQs) and tell us their stories, mostly related to the water shortage and its effects. It is a close knit community all focused on producing consistently good wine and respecting the environment.

We spent a day with Tharien Hansen, their viticulturalist, who is very knowledgeable and a seriously fierce big strong Afrikaan wine farmer, who makes sure they are producing the best quality grapes for Riebeek. She determines when the grapes from each plot are ready and informs the winery that it is time to prepare for vintage.

The grapes are picked in the early hours and delivered to the winery first thing in the morning. Alecia Boshoff is their Head Winemaker and has Eric and Jacques working with her, Eric is responsible for white wines and Jacques for red wines. At this critical time of year the hours are extremely long but there is no moaning, they are all aware of the gratification of the end result.

We did a full tasting of the wines, and the one that really stood out was Pinotage (our Huntersville). Alecia’s explanation for it being lighter and elegant in style than most Pinotage wines is that it should mirror the character of its parent grape Pinot Noir. Pinotage was a grape created in 1925 in Stellenbosch by crossing Pinot Noir and Hermitage, better known today as Cinsau(l)t. The grapes used for Huntersville Pinotage are cold soaked at 10 degrees for 3-4 days, then 60% are whole bunch pressed. Pinotage is a small berry-sized grape resulting in good colour extraction. The wine is fermented up to 28 degrees to get rid of the acetate (banana character).  The wine is then pressed off the skins before being fermented dry. The 2016 vintage shows red plum, raspberry fruit, chocolate and has a soft tannic structure. Delicate, elegant, ripe and rounded.

The Pinotage Rosé (our GoldCoast and Lion Ridge), were the group’s favourite. Riebeek have Pinotage vineyards specifically for rosé production. They pick the grapes earlier for rosé, drain off the free run juice and ensure the wine has minimum skin contact, giving a wine of pale salmon colour in a just off-dry style, with strawberry fruit flavour. In the 30 degree heat it was the go-to wine for Braiis or the fresh local seafood and shellfish. The 2017 vintage won the 2017 Pinotage Rosé Award of Excellence at the Pinotage Associations competition.

Viognier 2017

Left on the lees as long as possible, this wine is balanced and rounded, fresh and lifted with lots of aromatic and floral character. Peach, apple, lychee fruit flavours.

Chenin Blanc 2017

Fermented on the lees for about 4 weeks, then on fine lees. 50% from bush vines so very labour intensive and lower yields. Bush vine gives the wine more mouthfeel and concentration of flavour. This style of vine growing is also beneficial in the current water situation as they protect themselves. Stone fruit, tropical and pineapple flavours.

Chardonnay 2017

Unoaked, no malolactic fermentation. Old vines, low yields. Lees ageing. High alcohol, 14%. Lots of flavour, tropical, melon, creamy, buttery, green apple on finish.

Vondeling

During our visit we also spent time at the beautiful Vondeling Estate near Voor-Paardeburg, Paarl.

 

Julian Johnsen (an Englishman) and his family own the winery and live on the Estate. Matthew Copeland is the Head Winemaker, and also lives on the Estate. Vondeling own their own vineyards, winery and bottling machinery. It is a much more showy Estate which doubles up as a wedding venue with its own chapel. We did an afternoon’s tour and tasting and then settled in to a poolside Braii with other visitors from the UK, including of course Simon Leschalles and Rupert St Aubyn who support our market in the South West.

We were so fortunate to experience life in a South African valley vineyard and got a true understanding of the producers’ devotion to quality wine and sustainable winemaking for the future. It is a memory never to forget.

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Blog, Wines19 January 2018

Beautiful Burgundy

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Blog, Wines19 January 2018

Beautiful Burgundy

As the Summer approaches, it is time to move on from the big, bold reds that lend themselves so well to cold nights snuggled up by the fire, to lighter reds such as Pinot Noir. If you are lucky enough to see a Pinot Noir grape growing on the vine, it is more of a dusky pink than red or black in colour. It is this pale colour, along with a naturally thick skin that gives Pinot Noir wine its light character. Burgundy in France is arguably the home of the Pinot Noir grape variety and all reds produced in the region must be 100% Pinot Noir. One of our favourites is Domaine Chanson Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2014, a vibrant fruity wine, ideal with cold meat platters, as well as meat sauce pastas and barbecued pork steaks.

 

Domaine Chanson has been handcrafting exceptional wines for over 250 years at their unique Domaine in the heart of Burgundy. With a profound passion for Burgundy’s best appellations, Président Gilles de Courcel, winemaker Jean-Pierre Confuron and their team gracefully express the specific terrior of each parcel of land. In the purest of Burgundian tradition, ageing of wines in oak barrels takes place in Chanson’s own Bastion; a medieval tower which shelters the wines throughout the process.

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Food Pairings, Wines18 January 2018

Chocolate & Wine

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Food Pairings, Wines18 January 2018

Chocolate & Wine

Many purists will flatly deny that there is an acceptable match for wine and chocolate. The intense sweetness of chocolate and its ability to decimate the taste buds make matching with a wine a sticky proposition, and the sweeter the chocolate, the harder this becomes. Although we have long been tricked into believing this is true, and with most menus featuring chocolate desserts, here are some recommendations that are capable of standing up to those powerful flavours:

Sweet Sparkling Wines

Asti Spumante, Italy or Rumours Moscato, Australia

Wines made from the Muscat/Moscato grape (e.g. Asti), tend to have the required aromatic intensity and sweetness to pair with chocolate desserts.

Fortified Wines

Elysium Black Muscat, California or Campbell’s Ruthglen Muscat, Australia.

These wines have the concentration, weight and sweetness to deal with all things chocolate.

Sweet Sherries

Triana Pedro Ximenez, Javier Hidalgo, Spain.

This treacle style sherry works wonders with chocolate, but don’t expect to be able to move from your table for a while after this taste bud explosion.

New World Dry Red Wines

Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel, California or Esk Valley Merlot-Cabernet-Malbec, New Zealand.

When using chocolate in all things savoury the choice can be widened to powerful, dry red wines, such as a Zinfandel or a Merlot blend. A certain touch of bitterness, earthy qualities and the roasted notes of dry reds from a warm-climate, that pack a punch, match the characteristics of the chocolate itself.

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Blog18 January 2018

Dispelling the Myths of Wine

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Blog18 January 2018

Dispelling the Myths of Wine

Myth: Tears/legs on the glass mean a better wine.

This is false! The wine showing on the inside of the glass when swirled is known as wine tears or legs. It can be a sign of higher alcohol content in the wine, a more viscous wine (think how a dessert wine sticks to the glass), or sign of a dirty glass and unfortunately even when a glass has been through a washer there is still a residue on the glass that can contribute to more visible tears. Steaming and polishing glasses is the best option to reduce this.

Myth: The bigger the punt (the indent on the bottom of a wine bottle) the better quality the wine is.

This is false! The punt is intended to strengthen the bottle to withstand the build-up of pressure within – most Champagne bottles have a punt for this reason. A punt is better at collecting the sediment at the bottom of the bottle, so it is easier to avoid disturbing it and ending up with cloudy wine. It is used as a clever marketing tool for perceived quality. However, it is the answer to the riddle of how to drink from a bottle of wine when the bottle is unopened!

Myth: Red wine should be drunk warm.

This is false! Heat will actually damage the delicate flavours of the wine and you could even end up with a fizzy red due to initiating a secondary fermentation! People usually think room temperature is a suitable atmosphere for storing wine but since the introduction of central heating, most rooms are now too warm. The recommended drinking temperature for red wines is between 12 and 18 degrees (cooler for lighter styles, warmer for heavier styles).

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Food Pairings, Wines28 December 2017

Wine & Cheese

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Food Pairings, Wines28 December 2017

Wine & Cheese

Cheese and wine are a match made in heaven, if you get them right! We have a bit of a port & Stilton hangover in the UK and assume we should drink a big red wine with cheese but in fact, in many cases, white wine would work better, especially for more delicate or complex cheeses.

Blue, stinky, soft, hard, creamy, salty, fresh, aged – the styles go on and on! And each needs style needs it own wine pairing to really get the best from the combo.

When we food and wine match, our aim is to balance and complement both parts. Cheese is basically fat and acidity so we need something that will cut through the fat and balance the acidity; white wines will usually do this better than reds. Of course there are exceptions, where big strong flavours need to pair with the same, and don’t forget personal preference, so here’s a few ideas of what will work well together:

Ricotta (and other light, fresh cheeses)

Fresh cheeses are light and delicate so look for the same in your wine pairing. Miopasso Pinot Grigio or Divici Prosecco Spumante, both from Italy (albeit different ends of the country) would be an ideal match. Light in body with a fresh acidity to cleanse the pallet.

Goats’ Cheese

The Loire Valley in France is famed for its Chevre cheese made from Goat’s milk. It’s also highly respected for Sauvignon Blanc – a great example of this region’s elegant take on this grape variety is Haut Poitou Sauvignon Blanc from Marcel Martin.

Manchego

Here again there’s an affinity because they are made in the same place. If it grows with it, it goes with it! Floral, aromatic and complex Mas Buscados Macabeo, Spain pairs well with the oily, fruity Manchego Spanish Ewe’s cheese.

Epoisses (or other stinky/runny cheese)

The ultimate food and wine pairing would be Epoisses with Meursault 1er Cru, Château de Blagny, Louis Latour – both from Burgundy. Funnily enough the two are towns not that far away from each other, so it’s no surprise that the rich, heady, toasty wine is an ideal companion to this smelly, ripe, unctuous cheese.

Brie & Camembert

A Chablis would work well but the rustic twang of the cheese lends itself to a light, savoury red such as Pinot Noir, Hahn Winery, USA.

Cheddar (the stronger the better)

If it’s red you’re after, the True Zin Zinfandel  from Italy is a must. It’s dry, yet juicy style and smoky undertones really bring out the richness of the cheese.

Gorgonzola (and other creamy blues)

Botrytis white. We always talk about complementing with food and wine but here’s an example of where the opposite applies. The sweet Botrytis Semillon Vat 5 De Bortoli, Australia and salty cheese counteract each other, creating a dance of flavour for the palate.

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